Dr. Tom Dudley was destined to become a chiropractor.
"Ever since I was a kid, all I wanted to be was a chiropractor," Dudley said. "Other kids wanted to be a fireman or a policeman. I wanted to be a chiropractor."
Dudley relates a family story that has turned not only him, but his father, uncle and at least 20 cousins into a family of chiropractors.
His grandfather was a sugar beet farmer in Southern Alberta, Canada. During one harvest season, he fell asleep at the wheel of a truck one night and drifted off the road. He was paralyzed in the accident. The family fell on hard times, lost the farm and moved to Arizona seeking treatment for the father's paralysis.
Traditional medical doctors could do nothing for the Dudley family, and they moved back to Alberta. A chiropractor from a nearby town began working with Dudley's grandfather, and eventually the elder Dudley regained his movement.
"He couldn't move real well, but he got to where he could walk with a cane," Dudley said. "It was such a tragedy, they lost everything. But it was a miracle. That incident made such an impact on my father and my uncle."
Both men became chiropractors and Dudley said family reunions end up with everyone gathered around an adjustment table talking chiropractic.
A Canada native, Dudley his wife Michelle and their five children 1 to 10 call Carson City home. Dudley owns Dudley Chiropractic and has seen several thousand Carsonites since he began practicing here in 1988.
He came to Nevada on a whim, fresh from chiropractic school with no plans and no money. He worked in Reno for a while before a family friend - a chiropractor - referred him to a woman in Carson City
Genevieve Burke was 81 and practiced as a chiropractor from her home, an old house next to the sheriff's office. Her only help was her friend Jane, a woman in her 70s, Dudley said.
"When I walked in the first day she said, 'Nice to meet you. You're an answer to my prayers.'
"She had lots of patients, but she was tired and needed help. She took me under her wing."
Dudley lived in the house/office free of charge and helped Burke with her patients. He was paid $10 a patient.
Burke had a stroke in 1989 and Dudley took over her patients.
"I still have some of her patients," he said.
And a slew of other patients to go along with them. Dudley really believes in the ability of chiropractic care to help the body heal itself, and he is enthusiastic about spreading the word.
"Chiropractors feel the nervous system controls the body, and if nothing interferes with the nervous system, the body can heal itself," Dudley said. "I've seen the benefits of it my whole life. I grew up with no health concerns. I had my first aspirin in the ninth grade at a basketball tournament."
Dudley knows that there are people who raise a skeptical eyebrow at the profession he embraces.
"I don't know why it is such a strange concept that your body can heal itself," he said. "You're body doesn't break down just because you run out of drugs. The body has the inherent ability to heal itself. It's about being proactive and keeping the body balanced with no interferences."
His assistant Amber Macfarlan is a testament that for some people, chiropractic care works.
Before she started working for Dudley three years ago, she had been in an accident that damaged her kidneys. She said she was to the point where she was almost put on dialysis, had seen several specialists and was in constant pain. Dudley asked her one day what hurt and began adjusting her body.
"Two weeks later I had no pain, and I haven't had any problems since," Macfarlan said.
Dudley and his staff offer classes to businesses and clubs about diet, lifting and different ways to better treat the spine.
"I would rather do this job than any job I could think of," Dudley said. "I've been blessed with great help, the best people who genuinely love and care about patients. We're all about helping people, and we see the results every day. You can't believe the miracles you see here."